Former Governor’s Mansion

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The spirit of Governor Briggs who died prematurely is residing for his own reasons…

He has found a way to help the museum staff.


The former Governor’s Mansion Museum and Carriage House, owned by the State Historical Society of North Dakota is a well-preserved and restored 1884 late Victorian Mansion, with stick style detailing; well worth a visit for a free tour. This glorious mansion has 2 large floors, a ballroom attic, and a basement. There are many rooms, including 5 bedrooms, two parlors, both an upstairs and downstairs porch, with an indoor bathroom on the second floor that originally was part of the mansion. Another bathroom was added much later to the first floor, during Gov. Langer’s term in office.

The furniture and decor on display reflect what was there from 1893 – through 1960; the years that this mansion was a government-provided home for its governors. The visitor will enjoy looking at several “unique room exhibits that feature the restoration process, architectural style changes, and furniture used by several governors.” Several eras were chosen by the restoration team that reflect the changing tastes and styles preferred by various governors who lived at this mansion.

What is interesting to see, for example, are all the different wallpaper samples used throughout the eras. The changes in style and taste are very much evident. During the restoration process, some of the original wallpaper scraps found on the walls were used to recreate new wallpaper rolls that were reapplied to various rooms, as part of the display for the era being show-cased in each room.

Also of interest is the 1903 Carriage House, featuring the exhibit: “From Bucket of Oats to Quarts of Oil.” The flower gardens feature over 60 species of Heritage Plants.



This grand, 2 and a half story mansion was originally built for a fast-moving entrepreneur, Asa Fisher, who had an interesting work history. He was a wholesale liquor dealer, a registrar of the Bismarck Land Office, and president of the First National Bank. After living in this house for only 9 years, Asa Fisher sold this mansion to the state for $5,000, in 1893, which was a tremendous amount of money for the time.

The Fisher Mansion became the official residence of the Governor of North Dakota. Twenty governors who were elected to office in the great state of North Dakota lived in this spacious mansion with their families. Of course, the style of the decor of the inside of this mansion changed to the tastes of the governor living there throughout the eras.

In 1960, a new Governor’s Mansion was built, and they moved out of this mansion. In 1975, the State Historical Society of North Dakota was given the house with the hope that it would operate as a historic house museum.

It was a long, frustrating processes, restoring this grand mansion. Wallpaper was custom-made from studying the many layers of wallpaper carefully removed from the walls. Furniture was collected, bought and donated, and exhibits were established as well, teaching the public the painstaking process of restoring this grand old mansion.



Several former Governor’s mansions and important dwellings used by political leaders seem to attract former residents and/or people attached to these historic structures seem to make these special residences their after-life retirement homes, or a place to visit often.

People who die before they have a chance to complete an important task or duty, sometimes are restless and haunt the place they died or where they were working; still trying to carry on, and/or finish what they started.

In 1898, Governor Frank Briggs died in the master bedroom of the mansion, because of tuberculosis.

Renovating and restoring a property can act like an environmental trigger, activating spirits connected to the structure or land, to become regular visitors or unseen residents.

Changing a favorite place in a structure that was loved by an entity while alive can cause concern or happiness that they can’t keep to themselves, and feel compelled to let the living know that they are still around too.

In 1907, Governor Burke renovated the considerable ballroom attic space in the mansion. Part of it became a playroom for the Burke children, and rest of the space became the apartment for their butler and cook, Tom Lee. It is possible that this is when the entity of Gov. Briggs became active in this world, because this is when Tom Lee started to sleep on the second floor porch in a hammock, when the Burke Family wasn’t home. Tom Lee insisted that the mansion was haunted by Gov. Briggs, and refused to sleep in the attic area when alone in the mansion.

Sometimes these visiting or residing spirits try to help or support the staff or people in charge of the property or structure, especially in house museums, restaurants, or bed and breakfast establishments.



The old master bedroom, where Governor Briggs died, is an active area for paranormal activity:

The door to the master bedroom, opens and closes all by itself.

The curtains move by themselves when no one living is in the room, and there is no breeze.

The closet door in the bedroom slams itself shut all by itself. I bet it is a heavy door, and it takes some force to slam it.

The staff and visitors have heard footsteps:

On the staircase going to the basement, and

On the staircase, leading from the second floor to the attic as well.

In at least one instance, a visitor caught an EVP telling her not to go up into the attic.


Probably so! The entity of Governor Briggs, or perhaps another entity, probably became a frequent visitor, after the renovation of the attic in 1907. Whoever it may be might had liked the space as it was, perhaps a favorite place; maybe a home office. Today, he must be glad that the attic is closed off, and may accompany visitors on their self-tours, helping to keep an eye on the people who come into the mansion.

Various staff members who wish to remain anonymous, have had personal experiences with this entity or entities, and reported them to Lori Orser.

Lori L. Orser, author of Spooky North Dakota inadvertently recorded an EVP when she visited this former Governor’s Mansion.

For her story, she was walking around the mansion, speaking information and her thoughts into her portable voice recorder. When she arrived at the stairs that lead to the attic, she commented on the stairs being roped off, musing to herself that the staff doesn’t want visitors to go up the stairs.

The spirit voice on the EVP she recorded at the same time of her musings agreed; “DON’T GO UP!”

Paranormal investigation group Dakota Paranormal – May have caught something when they investigated at the Governor’s Mansion Museum, but haven’t posted anything yet, until they have a “Reveal” with the folks who run the Former Governor’s Mansion. I am looking forward to reading their published report; whatever is allowed to be made public.


320 E Avenue B
Bismarck, ND 58501
(701) 328-2666

The Former Governor’s Mansion in Bismarck is on E Avenue B, 2 blocks north of E. Rosser Avenue, between North 3rd and North 4th Street. E. Rosser Ave runs east/west between Washington Street and North 7th Street, that are both north/south streets.


Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr


  • Spooky, Creepy North Dakota
    by Lori Orser
    pg. 14
    Schiffer Publishing, 2010

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr



Our Photos are copyrighted by Tom Carr

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